May 28, 2003

Coastal bus ride, war remnants and two more bus rides

japanese covered bridge (I don't know the people in the picture)

The overnight bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An was long, but not too crowded so we were able to spread out and get some sleep. During the night we had a couple of quick snack/toilet stops but didn't see anything of particular interest at the stops. For part of the trip when I was still awake we drove along the coast, winding in and out of small coves surrounded by rocky cliffs. This was all illuminated by the nearly full moon, which reflected off the water to help produce a very beautiful night time view. It was quite early when we arrived in Hoi An so we took our time waking up and getting off the bus. We were planning to spend several hours in Hoi An before catching our next bus to Hue, but found out that the later bus didn't include any sightseeing stops while the earlier one did. Based on this new information we changed our plan and took the earlier bus, which only left us with less than an hour to explore the city. We still managed to walk several kilometers around town and even got to see an old Japanese covered bridge. Hoi An is a very quaint town with narrow streets and well preserved colonial architecture. The town is also known for its tailors who can make clothes to order for very reasonable prices, although we didn't have a chance to test them out on this trip.

coastal mountain pass
The first stop on the way to Hue was at a complex of caves, which was quite impressive. Most of the caves were inside a small mountain and it was also possible to climb to the top of the mountain for a view of the surrounding countryside. We had a little less than an hour to explore the area, in which time I speed walked through around 5 caves and also made it to the top of the mountain before heading back to the bus. Many of the caves had Buddha shrines and statues and some were used during the Vietnam War as bunkers. In one place you could see bullet holes in a gate that was part of the defense structure from that time period.

pillbox and other fortifications
From the caves we drove further north to the top of a coastal mountain pass. The drive up the pass was quite interesting with our bus passing the many slow trucks on a very windy road. At the top of the pass we were treated to excellent views up and down the Vietnamese coast. We also saw some more remnants from the Vietnam War including pillboxes and other fortifications. At the moment they are working on a tunnel that will go through the mountain that we had to drive over. When completed, the tunnel should save quite a bit of time, especially for the many large trucks that ply this route.

empty beach
Our next stop was at a beach resort area located on an island-like peninsula. We spent most of an hour snacking and listening to the surf, although we didn't end up swimming this time. The beach was nearly empty as far as we could see in both directions, and would have been a great place to spend a few days relaxing.

symbolic cannons to defend the city
Upon arrival in Hue we were yet again greeted by numerous people trying to take us to their guesthouses. This time we completely ignored them however since we were planning to keep on traveling north that same night. While making the rough schedule for this trip we had decided that we would rather have more time to spend in the north of Vietnam and also in Laos, so opted to rush through the central region of the country. We had several hours between buses in Hue, which is a rather large city with some ancient historical sights. My first priority however was to find a good and reasonably priced Internet cafe where I could record my digital pictures to a CD since my camera memory was nearly full.
moat around the citadel
The place we ended up using charged me the bank breaking sum of about 30 cents for the hour and a half I spent reading email and saving my pictures. After leaving the Internet cafe we walked around the old citadel and moat. On the way we saw some old cannons that were set up as symbolic defenders of the city, with one cannon for each season of the year on one side of the main citadel entrance, and one for each natural element on the opposite side of the entrance. We also stopped to take pictures at a couple of monuments and enjoyed eating some ice cream before catching a motorbike taxi back to our next overnight bus.

The bus ride from Hue to Hanoi turned out to be one of the more grueling rides of the trip, mainly because it was a very full bus. They stopped early in the trip and picked up a number of Vietnamese passengers, who certainly were not part of the tourist ticket crowd. I had a Vietnamese construction worker sitting next to me, although I was lucky enough to have a window at the very back of the bus.
supper on the bus
In this seat I had plenty of leg room and was also able to lean against the window to sleep. It was still fairly difficult (but not impossible) to sleep since the back seat was full and there wasn't any shoulder room left. We had a few stops along the way before arriving bright and early (before 6 am) in Hanoi's old quarter.

I think I'll stop writing now to select some pictures to put online. I'll continue the trip report in the next update.

Until then,


Posted by andrew on May 28, 2003